06.02.2014 – Miran Hussein – BasNews, Syria – Many rumors have been circulating recently about the Iraqi forces that have been involved in the Syrian civil war helping back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government forces fight against radical Islamic groups in the country. One such group of Iraqi army forces is the al-Zulfaqar Battalion, who has played a major role in the country’s bloody conflict.
In exclusive interview, BasNews spoke with Salam Safir, the spokesman of al-Zulfaqar Battalion, who is currently in Syria fighting against Syrian opposition militants. Safir told BasNews that their battalion numbers around 650 people and that there are five other Iraqi battalions fighting in Syria -Abu Fazl Abbas, Said Shuhada, Haidari, Asabi Ahl al-Haq and Imam Hussein. Safir noted there are also other Iraqi militants in different areas of Syria fighting in support of Hezbollah’s military wings. “We are not here to defend the Assad regime, but rather to protect important religious places like the shrines of Shiite clergies and other holy sites. We are also fighting against terrorists and radical Islamic organizations,” Safir explained. Safir pointed out that their battalion has not fought against Kurds in Syria nor have they arrested any Syrian Kurds. Their focus, rather, has been on radical Islamist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).Safir said he does not believe that any ISIS members are originally from Syria and that they came from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Libya.
In regards to how the battalions are supported financially, Safir revealed that, “The salaries and basic needs of the battalions vary from each other, but our battalion earns $200 per month, in addition to food and other needs which are all provided by the Syrian National Army. However, there are some forces that earn between $700-1000 per month.”
Safir also noted that their battalion fights separately from the Syrian National Army, but that they often hold weekly meetings with them to exchange information and make plans. He also rejected all rumors that the Syrian National Army has been involved in the killing and raping of civilians in Syria and accused extremist groups like ISIS of committing such actions. Safir clarified the pre-condition that anyone wanting to join one of the battalions must be single, explaining that, “It is not related to any religious decisions at all, but the reason that we put that pre-condition in place is so that they won’t be tied to their family and children while away fighting in the war.”